Obama’s prob­lems with Jewish vot­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

As he moves closer to win­ning the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent that Barack Obama has a huge prob­lem win­ning the trust of Jewish vot­ers, and pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can nom­i­nee John McCain knows it. On Fri­day, Mr. McCain crit­i­cized Mr. Obama for ad­vo­cat­ing un­con­di­tional talks with Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad, who two weeks ago called Is­rael a “stink­ing corpse” which is doomed to dis­ap­pear. In Oc­to­ber, Mr. Obama at­tacked then-Demo­cratic front-run­ner Hil­lary Clin­ton for sup­port­ing a non­bind­ing Se­nate res­o­lu­tion declar­ing Iran’s Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion — which it man­i­festly is. (The res­o­lu­tion passed the Se­nate 76-22 in Septem­ber, win­ning the votes of al­most half of Se­nate Democrats.)

On May 9, Robert Mal­ley, an Obama ad­vi­sor, re­signed from the sen­a­tor’s cam­paign as re­ports sur­faced that he had met with the ter­ror­ist group Ha­mas. Last month, Ha­mas po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sor Ah­mad Yousef said on WABC Ra­dio in New York that he hoped Mr. Obama would be elected pres­i­dent. Mr. McCain said Ha­mas would never want him to be pres­i­dent, “so if Mr. Obama is fa­vored by Ha­mas, I think peo­ple can make judg­ments ac­cord­ingly.”

Mr. Obama sternly re­jected the Ha­mas en­dorse­ment, but the latest Gallup polls sug­gest he has a sig­nif­i­cant and grow­ing prob­lem in keep­ing Jewish vot­ers in the Demo­cratic fold. The latest Gallup polls show that in a con­test with Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama would se­cure 61 per­cent of the Jewish vote to the Repub­li­can’s 32 per­cent. In 2004 and 2006 elec­tions, by con­trast, Jewish vot­ers fa­vored the Democra- tic Party by a 75 per­cent to 25 per­cent mar­gin. This sug­gests that sup­port for the Demo­cratic Party stan­dard-bearer among Jews could be ap­proach­ing its low­est lev­els in decades. The Repub­li­cans’ best show­ing was achieved by Ron­ald Rea­gan in 1980, when he won 40 per­cent of the Jewish vote.

Jews com­prise just 2 per­cent of the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. But they could play a large role in a close elec­tion be­cause they are ge­o­graph­i­cally con­cen­trated and are more likely than other groups to turn out to vote. States with large Jewish pop­u­la­tions — such as Cal­i­for­nia, New York, Florida and New Jer­sey — ac­count for 128 of the 270 elec­toral votes needed to win. Illi­nois, Penn­syl­va­nia and Ohio also have large num­bers of Jewish vot­ers. Con­sider two states: Florida, a crit­i­cal swing state, has 400,000 Jewish vot­ers and Penn­syl­va­nia 200,000. In th­ese states, a shift among Jews from one party to the other can de­ter­mine the over­all fi­nal re­sult. This is part of the rea­son that Mrs. Clin­ton tried to po­si­tion her­self as a “cen­trist” in for­eign af­fairs: vot­ing in fa­vor of the Iraq war in 2002 and talk­ing tough about Iran. But she un­der­mined her own cred­i­bil­ity by stri­dently de­nounc­ing the war dur­ing this year’s Demo­cratic pri­maries and stak­ing out a po­si­tion to the left of Mr. Obama on with­draw­ing troops from Iraq.

As for Mr. Obama, the Iran and Ha­mas is­sues won’t be go­ing away. In the com­ing months, vot­ers can look for­ward to pic­tures of Mr. McCain kiss­ing the West­ern Wall dur­ing his March visit to Is­rael and the Repub­li­can Jewish Coali­tion run­ning cam­paign ads in South Florida ti­tled “I Used To Be A Demo­crat.”

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